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very little chance of going right unless he were employed. With his head full of this conceit, it mattered comparatively little on which side he took his stand to begin with: he would speedily make all even and right; the one thing needful in the first instance was, that his services should be taken advantage of. Of course, Wither's opinions, like those of other men, were influenced by his position, and he was no doubt perfectly sincere in the most extreme of the new principles which he was ultimately led to profess. The defect of men of his temper is not insincerity. But they are nevertheless apt to be almost as unstable as if they had no strong convictions at all. Their convictions, in truth, however strong, do not rest so much upon reason or principle, as upon mere passion. They see everything through so thick and deeply coloured an atmosphere of self, that its real shape goes for very little in their conception of it; change only the hue of the haze, or the halo, with which it is thus invested, and you altogether change to them the thing itself—making the white appear black, the bright dim, the round square, or the reverse. Wither, with all his ardour and real honesty, appears never in fact to have acquired any credit for reliability, or steadiness in the opinions he held, either from friends or opponents. He very naïvely lets out this himself in a prose pamphlet which he published in 1624, entitled ‘The Scholar's Purgatory,’ being a vindication of himself addressed to the Bishops, in which, after stating that he had been offered more money and better entertainment if he would have employed himself in setting forth heretical fancies than he had any chance of ever obtaining by the profession of the truth, he adds, “Yea, sometimes I have been Vol. IV. D
wooed to the profession of their wild and ill-grounded opinions by the sectaries of so many several separations, that, had I liked, or rather had not God been the more merciful to me, I might have been Lieutenant, if not Captain, of some new band of such volunteers long ere this time.” Overtures of this kind are of course only made to persons who are believed to be open to them. It is plain from his own account that Wither was thus early notorious as a speculator or trader in such securities — as one ready, not precisely to sell himself, his opinions, and his conscience, to the highest bidder, but yet to be gained over if the offer were only made large enough to convert as well as purchase him. There is a great deal of very passable wearing and working honesty of this kind in the world. The history of Wither's numerous publications has been elaborately investigated by the late Mr. Park in the first and second volumes of the ‘British Bibliographer;' many of his poems have been recently reprinted by Sir Egerton Brydges, and others of his admirers; and an ample account of his life and writings, drawn up with a large and intimate knowledge, as well as affectionate zeal and painstaking, which make it supersede whatever had been previously written on the subject, forms the principal article (extending over more than 130 pages) of Mr. Wilmott's ‘Lives of Sacred Poets’ (8vo. Lon. 1834). Much injustice, however, has been done to Wither by the hasty judgment that has commonly been passed, even by his greatest admirers, upon his later political poetry, as if it consisted of mere party invective and fury, and all that he had written of any enduring value or interest was to be found in the productions of the early part of his life. Some at least of his political pieces are very remarkable for their vigour and terseness. As a specimen we will give a portion of a poem which he published without his name in 1647, under the title of “Amygdala Britannica; Almonds for Parrots; A Dish of Stone-fruit, partly shelled and partly unshelled; which, if cracked, picked, and well digested, may be wholesome against those epidemic distempers of the brain now predominant, and prevent some malignant diseases likely to ensue: composed heretofore by a well-known modern author, and now published according to a copy found written with his own hand. Qui bene latuit bene virit.” This fantastic title-page (with the manufacture of which the bookseller may have had more to do than Wither himself) was suited to the popular taste of the day, but would little lead a modern reader to expect the nervous concentration and passionate earnestness of such verses as the following:— The time draws near, and hasteth on, In which strange works shall be begun; And prosecutions, whereon shall Depend much future bliss or bale. If to the left hand you decline, Assured destruction they divine; But, if the right-hand course ye take, This island it will happy make.
A time draws nigh in which you may
A time draws nigh in which the sun
A time draws nigh when with your blood You shall preserve the viper's brood, And starve your own; yet fancy than” That you have played the pelican; But, when you think the frozen snakes Have changed their natures for your sakes, They, in requital, will contrive Your mischief who did them revive.
A time will come when they that wake Shall dream; and sleepers undertake The grand affairs: yet," few men know Which are the dreamers of these two; And fewer care by which of these They guided be, so they have ease: But an alarum shall advance Your drowsy spirits from that trance.
A time shall come ere long in which
A time will come when see you shall Toads fly aloft and eagles crawl;
* Then. - * As yet.
Wolves walk abroad in human shapes;
When men shall generally confess
Ere God his wrath on Balaam wreaks,
Neither Churchhill nor Cowper ever wrote anything in the same style better than this. The modern air, too, of the whole, with the exception of a few words, is wonderful. But this, as we have said, is the character of all Wither's poetry—of his earliest as well as of his latest. It is nowhere more conspicuous than in his early religious verses, especially in his collection entitled ‘Songs and Hymns of the Church,' first published in 1624. There is no